Reviews in the National Press

Mail on Sunday: James Owen, July 10th, 2011

Where Hemingway feared to tread

Into The Arena by Alexander Fiske-Harrison

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Whatever you think of Alexander Fiske-Harrison’s account of his quest to become a bullfighter, you have to admire his guts. Not literally, happily, but there are times in his year as an amateur matador in Spain in which he seems likely to learn first-hand how cruel the arena can be. [Read more…]

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Anti-Bullfighting Publications

The most important review of my book from an anti-bullfighting activist was, unfortunately, in the pages of The Times Literary Supplement and is dealt with on the page ‘The TLS: A dispute of animal rights’. I say unfortunate because the TLS is the first place I published, aged 21, in a letter titled ‘Hume and Kant’, defending my one time lecturer at Oxford on political philosophy, the late Sir Isaiah Berlin, against Professor Peter Gay, the Yale historian. It saddened me greatly that a literary magazine which I had written essays of philosophy for since that letter, and which counts among its contributors Henry James, Virginia Woolf and T. S. Eliot, should hire a reviewer for a book on bullfighting who is so against the death of animals that he tried to force his pet wolf to become a vegetarian, something which he had written about in a book which I had previously negatively reviewed myself in Prospect magazine, a review which he had attacked on his blog. All in all, a very poor choice indeed.

The second most important review was from the League Against Cruel Sports. Although it was negative overall, they still had some nice things to say:

Alexander Fiske-Harrison spent a year immersing himself in the bullfighting culture of Spain, with the seemingly noble aim of trying to gain a greater understanding of it.

Animal welfare issues are sporadically raised, but are always dismissed as being subordinate to the “art form” of bullfighting. In Fiske-Harrison’s mind, the prolonged suffering of an animal for human entertainment is acceptable because it stirs emotion in an audience.

To his credit, Fiske-Harrison does at least acknowledge the morally questionable nature of the bullfight. And the book does contain some interesting explorations of concepts such as fear, bravery and drive. [Read more…]